A Mitchell man who has been serving a seven-year prison sentence for second-degree manslaughter was denied his request to modify his sentence on Tuesday.
Dylan Thompson, 28, requested an earlier release from prison and a suspended imposition for the second-degree manslaughter that occurred in January 2019, in which Thompson knocked Richard "Rick" Sanders to the ground at a local bar in Mitchell, causing injuries that led to the 59-year-old’s death. While Thompson was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with three years suspended, which includes parole eligibility on June 2022, he requested a modification that would allow his release for parole in June of this year.
Thompson’s modification request was largely based on the good behavior he’s exhibited while incarcerated in a Yankton correctional facility. However, State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins and the victim's family requested Thompson serve the remaining 14 months of his prison sentence. With Judge Chris Giles' decision to deny the modification and the suspended imposition request, Thompson is scheduled to be released on parole from the Yankton correctional facility in June 2022.
"This was a difficult case from all aspects. Many good things have been said about you, and I think that makes this such a difficult case for everyone, including the court because you have so many positive characteristics. But yet, you were involved in a terrible act,” Giles said of Thompson. “I think you are sorry for everything that has happened. I have suspended a year or two of prison sentences in the past, but it was with some acknowledgement of the victim’s family and acknowledgement they have seen some changes. But obviously you’re not getting that support from the victim’s family.”
Barbara Sanders, the sister of the late Rick Sanders, testified against Thompson’s request to modify his sentence, pointing to the move as “selfish.”
"I don't know where to begin, and why we are even here... Why do you think my brother's death is only worth 15 months?” Barbara Sanders said. “We’re not here to determine how good you are, we are here because you killed my brother... Who's going to release our burden?”
Thompson expressed his sympathies for the victim’s family and said he's "learned a lot" since serving time in prison. With a 1-year-old son in Mitchell, who he's yet to see, Thompson said he's been determined to provide for him and his family.
“First off, I want to apologize for my actions. I sincerely apologize. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry,” Thompson said. “I’ve learned a lot in prison, and I am trying to do everything I can to get out and be a father. Being in prison alone, is anger management itself.”
Thompson highlighted the treatment programs he’s successfully completed while being incarcerated, along with holding down a job at the correctional facility to show his good behavior.
Rick Christopherson, a corrections officer at the Yankton facility where Thompson has been incarcerated for a little over a year, testified on behalf of Thompson's character, supporting the modification for his early release.
"There was a distinct difference between him and the other trustees that have worked for me. He was honest," Christopherson said. "Every task that we would send Dylan on, it was accomplished quickly. I felt it was my job to come and represent him. I've never given a reference like this for a trustee before. He was determined to stick to his job, stay out of trouble and return to his family,"
Thompson’s attorney Doug Dailey pointed to the “exceptional behavior” Thompson has exhibited in prison, along with the birth of his son who is now 1.
“It’s our request to give some additional time off due to the exceptional behavior that he’s exhibited since he’s been incarcerated. He’s also had a child since the time he went in, and he’s not yet met his child,” Dailey said, noting his early release would help Thompson provide for his family. “He is on a good path toward rehabilitation, and he is doing all the right things. He intends to do that when gets out. He has done absolutely everything he could have done since he’s been in there.”